Then/Now: The Cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes'

What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?

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    The Cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes'

    Widowed Manhattan millionaire Philip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain) adopted his late maid's sons, raising them alongside his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato) in this late 70s/early 80s sitcom.  NBC ran 'Diff'rent Strokes' from 1978 to 1985, and the show covered topics ranging from race relations to child molestation to drug abuse (in a very special episode featuring Nancy Reagan). Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges starred as brothers Arnold and Willis Jackson, kids from Harlem who move into the Drummonds' Park Avenue penthouse.  Where are the stars of 'Diff'rent Strokes' now?
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    Gary Coleman Then

    After roles on ‘Good Times’ and ‘The Jeffersons,’ Coleman was cast as sassy Arnold Jackson on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and became a true child celebrity, spawning the pop culture catch phrase, “What’choo talkin’ bout, Willis?” (AP)
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    Gary Coleman: 1968-2010

    Coleman became a tabloid fixture in recent years due to stints as a mall security cop, a pitchman for a cash advance loan company, and his reality TV appearances, such as 'The Surreal Life' and 'Divorce Court,'’ in which he would often air his romantic troubles with wife Shannon Price-Coleman, 22.  Coleman also suffered from a kidney disease (the cause of his short 4' 8" stature) and required daily dialysis. The actor was admitted to a hospital in Utah on May 27, 2010 in critical condition with a brain hemorrhage. He died the next day at the age of 42. (AP)
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    Conrad Bain Then

    Canadian actor Bain was cast as wealthy widow Philip Drummond after appearing in sitcom 'Maude' and films like 'Lovers and Other Strangers' and Woody Allen's 'Bananas.' Bain was also an accomplished Broadway actor. His numerous roles led to the coining of the phrase "Conrad Bain plays the role …"
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    Conrad Bain Now

    Conrad Bain Now Bain left acting for screen-writing and retired to Los Angeles, where he played last role in 2000 in the play 'Ancestral Voices.' He passed away on Jan. 14, 2013 at 89 years old.
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    Todd Bridges Then

    With his role on 'The Waltons,' Bridges became the first African-American child actor to have a recurring role on a hit TV show. Over 60 national commercials, the miniseries 'Roots'’ and series 'Little House on the Prairie'led to his role as older brother Willis Jackson in 'Diff'rent Strokes.'
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    Todd Bridges Now

    Since the show, Bridges battled a cocaine addiction and was tried for the attempted murder of a drug dealer in 1988. He faced other arrests through the late 90s, for stabbing a roommate and ramming a car, but seemingly turned his image around in 2001, when Bridges and his brother saved a wheelchair-bound woman from drowning. Now 44, Bridges has recently appeared in many reality TV shows, such as 'The Surreal Life' with former ‘Strokes’ cast mate Gary Coleman, 'Skating with Celebrities,' 'Celebrity Boxing' (show at left) and 'The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest…' Coleman also had a recurring role on the CW sitcom 'Everybody Hates Chris.' Bridges is married with a son and tours schools touting the dangers of drug addiction. (AP)
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    Dana Plato Then

    Over 100 commercials led to Plato's first film role at the age of 13. An accomplished figure skater, Plato cut back on her sport to focus on the role of Kimberly Drummond. Rumors of drug problems and a pregnancy in 1984 resulted in Plato's dismissal from the wholesome series. (AP)
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    Dana Plato 1964-1999

    After 'Diff'rent Strokes,' the child star's career declined, and she turned to a 'Playboy' pictorial, low-budget productions, and soft-core pornography. In 1990, Plato’s ex husband gained custody of their child, and she moved to Las Vegas, working as a dry cleaner. Shortly after, she was arrested after robbing a video store, making headlines nationwide. Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton posted her bail. Plato was arrested again in 1992 on drug charges. She came out as a lesbian in 1998, though she later recanted this. Shortly after a tell-all interview with Howard Stern in 1999, Plato died of a drug overdose. She was 34.
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    Charlotte Rae Then

    The Drummond family's first maid was Mrs. Garrett, who served them from until 1979, when she went on to star in spin-off 'The Facts of Life.' Nedra Volz stepped in to fill the role of housekeeper from 1980 to 1982.
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    Charlotte Rae Now

    TV credits since 'Diff'rent Strokes' and successful spin-off 'The Facts of Life' include 'E.R.' and 'King of Queens.'  Rae, now 83, appeared in 2008's 'You Don’t Mess with the Zohan' and is an accomplished stage actress. She is divorced, with two children and three grandchildren. (AP)
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    Janet Jackson Then

    The future music superstar appeared on 'Diff'rent Strokes' from 1980 to 1984 as Willis' girlfriend Charlotte DuPrey. Janet got her television star performing with her famous brother Michael on variety show 'The Jacksons.'
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    Janet Jackson Now

    The youngest child in the notorious Jackson family, Janet has always been in the limelight. After 'Diff'rent Strokes,' she went on to star in series ‘'Fame,' the film 'Poetic Justice,' and was recently seen onscreen in Tyler Perry’s 'Why Did I Get Married.' But her TV and film career is nothing compared to Jackson's status as a pop star. At age sixteen, she had a record deal with A&M. By 1991 she was one of the highest paid singers in the music industry. 2001'’s album'‘All for You' became her fifth consecutive studio album to hit number one on the Billboard charts. Now 43 and married to music producer Jermaine Dupri, Jackson is still cranking out the hits. She can be seen on screen next in 'Why Did I Get Married Too.'
    (AP)
    AP2009
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    Dixie Carter Then

    Carter got her start with Broadway musicals and soap opera 'The Edge of Night.' Cast as Mr. Drummond's love interest in 1984, Carter portrayed divorced aerobics instructor Maggie McKinney. Maggie and Philip eventually married.
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    Dixie Carter: 1939-2010

    ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ led to Carter’s most famous role, that of Julia Sugarbaker on ‘Designing Women’ as well as a role on ‘Family Law.’  Most recently, Carter appeared in seven episodes of ‘Desperate Housewives’ in 2007, earning an Emmy nod for her role.  Carter died on Aril 10, 2010 just months after being diagnosed with endometrial cancer. She was 70 years old. (AP)
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    Danny Cooksey Then

    Cooksey got his showbiz start at age seven, when he appeared on 'The Tonight Show' singing country music. A 'Diff'rent Strokes' cast member from 1984-1986, Cooksey is best known for his role as precocious Sam McKinney, the son of Philip Drummond's love interest, Maggie McKinney.
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    Danny Cooksey Now

    Now 33, Cooksey is married and has a daughter. Since 'Diff'rent Strokes,' the former child star has voiced animated characters in series like '101 Dalmatians,' and 'Tiny Toon Adventures' and appeared in numerous television shows, from a 'MacGyver' guest spot to co-starring in early 90s Nickelodeon favorite 'Salute Your Shorts,' in which he played mulleted bad boy Bobby Budnik. He also scored a role in 1991’s 'Terminator 2.' Cooksey performed lead vocals for heavy metal band Bad 4 Good in 1992 and is currently in rock band Arbuckle.
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    Mary Jo Catlett Then

    After Nedra Volz, Catlett took over as the Drummond's maid. Catlett played her most famous role, housekeeper Pearl Gallagher, from 1982 to 1986.
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    Mary Jo Catlett Now

    Since 'Diff'rent Strokes,' Catlett has appeared in series from 'General Hospital' to 'That'’s So Raven' as well as numerous stage productions. Now 76, Catlett provides the voice of Mrs. Puff on the popular cartoon 'SpongeBob SquarePants' as well as a character on cartoon 'Kim Possible.' She’s appeared in movies like 'Serial Mom' and 'Beethoven's Fifth.'
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